Thursday, August 23, 2012

Flight

We're transitioning here.  I'm going to back to work.  Sweet Girl is going back to (a new) school and because I'm going back to work, Little Man will be going to day care.  It's exciting and terrifying.  There are so many unknowns to this equation that I can't even begin to properly address them with Sweet Girl.  And though I talk to Little Man about his "school," he's two years old and nothing is concrete until it happens.  Repeatedly.  The good news is that they will be going to the school where I will be teaching.  Well, Little Man will be in the building next door.  Close enough.  The uncertain news is that it is a private school and does not have a specific special education program.  This could be ugly.  This could be great.  This could be somewhere in between.  The only certain part of this adventure is that it will be an adventure.

The disadvantage to taking Sweet Girl to a private school with no special education program is that she may not get what she needs to help her grow; cognitively, socially, emotionally.  She may get so far into her world in an effort to mitigate her anxieties, that she loses a year of education.  In the public school where we originally planned for her to attend, there were stop-gaps in place to ensure that didn't happen.  There were teachers there who have training to help them understand how best to teach my girl, and the increasing number of students who are not so neuro-typical.  She would receive services because it's a federal law that she does.  That law does not apply to private schools.  I do not doubt the qualifications of the teachers at this school (might be a little hypocritical considering that I am now one of those teachers).  I do not doubt that they will want to help Sweet Girl.  I do not doubt that they will try.  I do not doubt that my girl is herself perfectly.  I doubt that the world is not ready for her yet.  And I can not change the world between now and September 4th when I will help her dress in her new uniform, pack up Little Man, gird my loins, and start a new chapter for all of us.

I've spent five years knowing this girl. Holding her, rocking her, comforting her, translating for her, worrying over her, delighting in her, crying for and with her, pushing her, loving her: I've spent five years with her and I think I know her better than anyone else.  I have watched her struggle mightily.  What comes so easily to most were mountains to her.  Hugs and touches were eschewed because they were too much.  Words were the cause of so many frustrated cries.  Relationships with loving people were slow because there was too much unknown in interacting with others.  The world is harder for her on a basic level.  She has struggled mightily, but she has progressed so much.  She is happy to say hello and goodbye to strangers.  She loves to be tickled and hugged and kissed.  She is at ease with her family - from her little brother to her great-grandparents.  She's climbed over mountains and started up new ones.  I see her and I see those things.  I see how she is a force of nature.  I see how she has become my definition of courage.  I see all the things she is capable of doing...becoming.  I see her.

But I am not blind to the rest of the world.  I see how she is not typical.  I see how she doesn't fit in.  Recently I've read two things that I doubt I'll ever forget.  One was a lovely and sad post on The Lone Woman Diaries (she's a wonderful-soon to be published-writer and fabulous mother to five boys) talking about a baby blue jay.  Megan talked about worrying over the bird because it was clear that it was not developing normally.  The bird did not live long: it was not compatible with this world in a way.  It was a reminder of what I'm fighting to give Sweet Girl.  The tools to survive in this world.  The other was part of Louis C.K.'s (oldish) interview with Conan O'Brien, discussing how we've all come to take amazing things for granted.  He talks about cell phones but what I really enjoyed was his take on flying.  Maybe because I just sat next to some LOUD complainers on a flight from Reno to Baltimore, or maybe because it reminded me of my girl.  Here's some of what Louis C.K. had to say (find a video and a transcript here):

"Flying is the worst one because people come back from flights and they tell you their story and it's like a horror story...  They're like it was the worst day of my life. First of all we didn't board for 20 minutes and then we get on the plane and they made us sit there on the runway for 40 minutes. We had to sit there. Oh really, what happened next? Did you fly through the air incredibly like a bird? Did you partake in the miracle of human flight, you non-contributing zero? Wow, you're flying! It's amazing! Everybody on every plane should just constantly be going, oh my God, wow you're flying, you're, you're sitting in a chair in the sky... You know, here's the thing. People like they say there's delays on flights (yeah) delays really New York to California in 5 hours. That used to take 30 years to do that and a bunch of you would die on the way there and have a baby. You'd be with a whole different group of people by the time you got there. Now you watch a movie you take a dump and you're home." 

It's funny because it's true.  We don't appreciate the amazing things because they have become commonplace to many of us.  And that's how I feel when I look at my girl.  Sure she just climbed the faux rock wall and went down the slide.  Just like every other kid on the playground.  Except she had to sing constantly to calm herself down to be near the other kids.  But she just climbed a wall and went down a slide and she did it with 15 other kids milling around her.  Everyone else would point out the singing.  I would point out the success.  Yes, she's five years old and just now started dressing herself.  Most of the world sees her advanced age for that task.  I see a girl one step closer to independence.  Today, she pointed out that we had passed the same car twice on the road today.  She said "Mommy, we see that car blue two times!"  The world wouldn't give her credit for the thought because it's not presented in an appropriate structure.  I gave her a high five because she noticed the car, made the connection, and told me about it.  So that's what has me worried.  I'm worried that I'm putting her in a place that won't see how hard she has to try to open her wings, or how many steps it has taken her to get to a place where she is comfortable outside of our nest.  I'm worried that she will be critiqued for a shaky take-off instead of having everyone marvel at her flight.  I am worried, but I'm also hopeful that we'll work it out.  I'm hopeful that she'll soar beyond my expectations.  I'm also hopeful that Little Man won't hate me for life once he realizes he won't be ruling the roost everyday.  It's terrifying and amazing and exciting, this marvel of flight.

7 comments:

  1. Fly high dear Annie. Nana knows you can do it. I've seen it happen and I know there is nothing you can't overcome. Mommy will be there to help and you will soar like a bird.

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  2. You will all do great because you will make site of that because you are an amazing mom.

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  3. "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well" Julian of Norwich

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  4. Thanks for the shout-out. Of course, I just followed up that post with one about hiding in my room, nauseous about taking One to college. I'm not always a Debbie Downer!

    Here's the good news: there are so many more non-neuro-typical children in the world now, which means there are that many more parents who are non-judgmental.

    More good news! You are a teacher at the same school as Sweet Girl. Her teachers will view you as a collegue, not just a parent. Sometimes, just sayin' SOMETIMES, teachers view parents as antagonists in the educational process. At this point, that doesn't bother me because I've been vocal for too long to care what people think. However, you now have an advantage, because the teachers will seek your opinion, and have you on-site for input. Good job, Mom!

    My nine and eleven year-old still only dress themselves when threatened and would probably forget to brush their teeth until well into their teens, so Sweet Girl is ahead of the curve in my house.

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  5. I too know that you can do this sweet Annie and I know that your mama will be watching and will make whatever changes that might be needed. THe two of you are a tremendous team! I love you both! Anonymous Aunt Barb

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  6. I know I am very late to this party, but you quoted two people for whom I have enormous respect. So I feel I have to comment. I think Megan is right. There are a whole raft of people who will never "get" Sweet Girl. They won't be patient enough or thoughtful enough to let her catch up. But in the past few decades there are a larger number of people in this country who do get it. I was on the subway the other day and saw a boy of 12 or 13 with his mother. He was clearly reaching a saturation point with the daily grind that is the NYC subway. He was beginning to sob and scream a little. His mother had little choice but to sit calmly until the next stop when they could get out and make there way home in an alternate route. Fortunately New Yorkers are trained to ignore outbursts of any kind. So I think they had as much privacy as possible.

    I can't speak for the rest of the crowd, but I think I got it. 25 years ago, I would have thought him to be spoiled and immature. Now I see him and recognize that he is valiant and persevering. He's probably trying to manage a situation that some days he just doesn't have the energy to face. Maybe in 25 more years, many more people will recognize his hard work and go back to reading their book.

    I hope the new school is going well for all three of you.

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  7. Sarah, I get it now from this post. You are such an amazing mother and I learn more from you every day. Thank you for coming back into my life! Love, Britt

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